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Meet the Author

July 16, 2024
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

B. John Burns III | Dessyre

@Beaverdale Books

Join Iowa writer B. John Burns as he shares his novel, Dessyre, a harrowing story of a woman deported to Canada at the age of 35 after some minor scrapes with the law.
Marisa Du Plessis, the protagonist in Dessyre (des-i-ray), was born in Vancouver, Canada to parents from South Africa and Brazil who had recently arrived there as employees of a major manufacturing firm. The parents were transferred to Kansas City when Marisa was six months old and lived there for the remainder of their lives. Marisa was raised entirely in Kansas City, went to school there, was the editor of the high school newspaper, and dated the football quarterback.  After high school, she served for four years in the United States Marine Corps.

Life fell apart for Marisa after the Marines. Subsequently she was arrested first for passing bad checks and then for purchasing, from an undercover officer, marijuana intended for other veterans with whom she resided in a homeless camp.
Only then was it discovered that, while she was legitimately in the country as a lawful permanent resident, Marisa’s parents had never taken the steps to naturalize her as a United States citizen. After her convictions on the minor charges, she was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Consequently, she was deported to Canada, which for her was essentially a foreign country.

Though essentially a work of fiction, Dessyre has a basis in actual events. The Marisa Du Plessis character in the book is inspired by the story of a woman now residing in Toronto, Canada.

Author John Burns met Ina in 2015 when he was working in Des Moines as a criminal defense attorney, and she was charged in federal court with illegal reentry into the United States following deportation. Ina was born in Toronto to two foreign nationals who had met while working there for Massey Ferguson, a large manufacturer of farm equipment. Between 1965 and 1982, Des Moines was the company’s North American headquarters. Along with many other Massey employees, Ina’s parents were transferred to Des Moines when Ina was six months old.

Growing up, she lived her entire life in Des Moines. Then, like Marisa Du Plessis, she served in the Marine Corps and like Marisa, there was a period of time during which Ina was homeless and had some legal difficulties. The consequences for those charges would have been minor but for the fact that her parents, and Ina herself, had never bothered to apply for citizenship that would easily have been granted prior to then.
Deportation was unavoidable.

“In my lawyering years, I saw many cases of people charged with illegal reentry,” Burns recalls.  “Nearly all were from Mexico, Central America and South America. This was different. This woman was from Canada. She’d been an Iowan since she was sixth months old. She was as much of an American as I am. Yet, she had no recourse. Essentially, she’s been exiled to a foreign country. Except as a tiny infant, Ina had never been to Canada.”

For nine years, Burns ruminated over how best to tell a story he believed should see the light of day. A brief encounter in late June 2023 with an audience member outside an Ames nightclub in which he was performing as a singer/songwriter lit the spark that led to Dessyre.  “Right then,” he explains, “I knew exactly how I wanted to introduce my main character.”  Dessyre is fiction. Marisa Du Plessis is not Ina. She’s a fictional character, different from Ina in nearly every respect. But the bad things that happened to her in the book also happened to Ina. It’s heartbreaking.”

After nine years, the real Ina has fortunately become acclimated to her new home in Ontario.

Credit: Shawn Palek

B. John Burns is an obscure Johnston, Iowa songwriter who celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 2022. Since writing “Last Airport Home” in September 1972, John has written approximately 5,000
songs in nearly every genre of music. He has appeared in 25 states, and continues to perform his tunes for mostly small, intimate audiences on piano, guitar and ukulele.  To put food on the table, John has worked as a busboy, a stereo salesman, a bank messenger, a criminal defense attorney, a grill cook, a Pinkerton guard, a political organizer, a bank bookkeeper, a published author, a paid actor, and a martial arts instructor. Through it all, he has continued to write music on a nearly daily basis.

Other Books by B. John Burns
The New Rules: An Old Man Held Hostage by a Radical Right Iowa
Legislature and Governor
Baby Pictures: My Year on the Road with Baby Lester and the Buggybumpers.

Dead Horses: A Collection of Longwinded But Entirely True Stories About My Favorite Subject
El Mensajero 4A Iowa Practice: Criminal Procedure

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